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Fairmont boys hoopsters look to rebuild in 2021

READY FOR TIP-OFF — Members of the Fairmont boys basketball team leading the way into Monday night’s season-opener against Jackson County Central at Cardinal Gym in Fairmont include Zach Jorgensen (11), Jackson Utermarck (5), Tanner Rosch (15), Jackson Francis (25), Thomas Klanderud (3), Trevon Winch (24) and Isaias Reyes (31). (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont boys basketball team lost its leading scorer in Wyatt Frank and graduated three other starters, but have a returning statistical leader in junior guard/forward Zach Jorgensen.

Cardinal head coach Jared Thompson’s roster will consist of inexperienced players, but he believes that hard work and building consistency will make the difference.

The Cardinals are used to opening the season after 10 days of practice. This year they were given two weeks and coach Thompson believed that was OK and plenty of time for his team to get ready for their season-opener Monday night against Jackson County Central at Cardinal Gym in Fairmont.

Frank led the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding, while placing second in steals per game. With four starters graduating, the team lost 63% of its scoring, 73% of its rebounds, 86% of its assists and 76% of its steals.

“Every single night when Wyatt Frank went in the gym, he got his 20 points and 10 rebounds,” Thompson said. “That was consistently where he was. It’s not just Wyatt, but all of our (2020) seniors. In high school sports I don’t think that’s totally uncommon. We have people that are hungry for the opportunity to go.”

The Cardinals, however, return Jorgensen, who led the team in assists and steals, while netting the No. 2 totals in rebounds and blocks to go with a 10-point scoring average. Thompson anticipates Jorgensen controlling the tempo of both the offense and defense due to being a very good defender and communicator on the floor.

“Zach is a guy we expect to be a stat stuffer in a lot of different categories,” Thompson said. “He played the role we needed him to play last year because Zach is at his best when he attacks the basket and creates for others.”

Fairmont’s roster consists of six seniors, six juniors and a handful of underclassmen, with each player competing for minutes. The upperclassmen competing for minutes are Jackson Utermarck, Tanner Rosch, Thomas Klanderud, Jackson Francis, Trevon Winch, Isaias Reyes, Jacob Crissinger, Gavin Rodning, Armando Hernandez, Jake Harris and Kolton Fritz. Utermarck and Rosch competed at the varsity level last year.

David Maakestad, Gavin Junkermeier, Sawyer Tordsen and Levi Pooley will be the top underclassmen battling for minutes. Effort, attitude and unselfish players are the keys Thompson believes make his team gain chemistry in overcoming inexperience.

“We have guys that are chomping at the bit to get out there and play,” Thompson said. “I think more than anything this year the opportunity to practice and play games, our guys are so grateful for and that’s kinda No. 1. To even worry about the winning, losing and minutes, we’re just extremely grateful to be playing and practicing together and everything else will be secondary, but will be fun to see how we grow throughout the year.”

Offensively, diversity will be key, as at times the Cardinals will go five-out, four-out or three-out, according to Thompson. Defensively, the Cardinals will hang their hat on being a good man-to-man defense. Thompson believes that’s the team’s strength and athleticism could diversify his defense, too.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to be inexperienced other than Zach,” Thompson said. “So when you have that you’re going to have inconsistency. So you’re going to see moments where we feel, ‘Holy cow, we’re a good basketball team executing very well,’ but we’re going to have to get through those moments where we’re going to hit some lows.”

The team’s goals for the season are to be grateful for every practice and try to get in as many games as they can, try to improve every day and by the end of the year be a team that their opponents don’t want to play.

“We want to be that team that I played Fairmont now, but I don’t want to play them in March,” Thompson said. “Our goal is to get better every day, find consistency and be a team that people are worried about in the section.”

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